News that the first two legs of the new World Series season will not take place, has seen a Sevens Series working group created, in reaction to Covid-19 and how it might continue to affect the prospect of any competition.
With the pandemic interrupting sport across the globe, it has continued to impact World Rugby directly. Prematurely halting the 2019/20 season, it appears to be already having a negative impact on 2020/2021.
This week, after a comprehensive consultation process and constructive dialogue with the host organizations, it has been decided that the combined men’s and women’s Dubai and Cape Town rounds of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which were provisionally scheduled for November 26-28 and December 4-6, 2020 respectively, will not take place due to the ongoing and dynamic global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sevens Series working group in reaction to Covid-19
The call has been made to incorporate a Sevens Series working group chaired by World Rugby Executive Committee, and council member John Jeffrey and including representatives of host and participating unions, players, and coaches.
World Rugby and its partners continue to focus on delivering the remainder of the 2020/21 men’s and women’s Series, while working in full collaboration with all stakeholders to closely monitor the ongoing and challenging COVID-19 environment.
In a media release, World Rugby stated ‘this group has been formed to review contingency plans and evaluate preparations for the safe, secure and impactful return to international rugby sevens competition. And to ensure that the product is the best it can be for hosts, participating unions, broadcasters, and commercial partners.
Mr Gary Chapman, President Dnata & Emirates Group Services said: “We are of course disappointed not to be hosting the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens for the first time in 51 years, but we understand the extraordinary circumstances surrounding today’s cancellation of the opening tournaments of the new season.”
International Rugby Players head of Legal and Player Welfare, David Quinlan said: “Players are again disappointed to see two more major tournaments canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but these decisions are made for the right reasons.
“We’re working with our player reps, World Rugby and other stakeholders through the Sevens Series working group to ensure that we get as meaningful and complete a schedule in place for this coming season as possible.”
Fans and Players now idle until Sevens Series opportunities resume
With both the fans unable to celebrate in costume and at legs of the planned World Series, the players are undoubtedly sitting ‘idle’. Waiting on indicators from World Rugby and health officials primarily, the assembled Sevens Series working group will meet via remote location.
➡️ HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series action as soon as it is safe to do so and we continue to plan and prepare for all remaining events in the 2021 Series. pic.twitter.com/NBaMbgLVof
— Audrey Lafforgue (@AudreyLaff0rgue) July 29, 2020
The working group will also review opportunities for HSBC World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series events in 2021. The second division of international rugby sevens was launched in 2020 to promote the global growth of the game and provide a pathway for emerging nations to gain promotion to core status on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, as Japan’s men successfully achieved after claiming the inaugural title in 2020.
With 21 of the 24 teams already qualified for the Olympic rugby sevens competition in Tokyo, planning for the Olympic Repechage final qualification event in the first half of 2021 is ongoing. Rugby sevens is expected to be one of the hottest tickets of the Tokyo Games, following the huge success of Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan, which captured the nation’s hearts, filled stadiums and created millions of passionate new rugby fans and participants across Japan and Asia.
Even if those plans do not meet fruition, Last Word on Rugby will continue to monitor the situation. The rugby sevens game has a proud place in the sport, and even while the welfare of players is paramount, everyone wants to see the team’s back out on the park soon.
If the Sevens Series working group can accommodate all parties, who knows….even looking at safe havens like New Zealand to host the opening tournament planned already for January 25-26, 2021. That may see the world series begin but across the globe, the prospect looks bleak; leading up to the Olympic preparations next year.
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